Samsung Galaxy Note 4 review

Is Samsung's latest phablet the best yet?

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For

  • Beautiful screen
  • Strong snapper
  • Loads of power

Against

  • S Pen is questionable
  • It's really expensive
  • TouchWiz not for everyone
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Samsung Galaxy Note 4 review

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Samsung Galaxy Note 4 review

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Samsung Galaxy Note 4 review

Here we go again, another massive Samsung handset. The Galaxy Note series may not be everyone's favourite, but it sure is successful and the Note 4 is its best instalment yet.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is the fourth generation device of the South Korean's supersized smartphone, taking over from the Galaxy Note 3 and adding a more expensive tier on top of the Galaxy S5.

Talking of price you'll need a small fortune to buy a Note 4 outright with a SIM-free price tag upwards of £560. If that's a bit steep then you can get it free on two year contracts starting at £38 per month.

You've also got to consider the size - the Note 4 is all about offering a big screen experience and if you're not a fan of oversized mobiles then you're not going to like this.

Still with us? Good, because there's a lot going on inside the Galaxy Note 4 to tempt you to part with a large wedge of cash.

Plenty to shout about

First and foremost is the 5.7-inch display Samsung has slapped on its latest phablet. Okay, so it's the same size at its predecessor, but it's been given a mighty boost in the resolution department.

The Super AMOLED panel now boasts a QHD (1440 x 2560) resolution, making it pin sharp, with incredibly vivid images and bright colours. If you love watching movies and gaming on the go the Galaxy Note 4 is a dream to gaze at.

So we're pretty smitten with the screen, but what other treats does the Note 4 hold? Well on the rear, just below the 16MP camera is a heart rate monitor. Fire up the S Health app, stick your finger over the red light and it'll tell you how many beats per minute the old ticker is going at.

It's not the most convenient of locations for a heart rate sensor, they fare much better on wearable devices, but at least it works. Samsung also claims it's able to measure your stress level, although we found it to be pretty hit and miss.



The biometrics don't stop there, as hidden beneath the physical home key on the front of the Note 4 is a fingerprint scanner.

Unfortunately it's not quite as good as Apple's Touch ID on the iPhone, with Samsung's offering requiring you to swipe your print down the key.

The success rate can vary, and while most of the time it'll recognise you in one or two attempts and unlock the handset there are occasions you'll have to have three or four goes. And that gets frustrating.

Check me out

At least when you pick the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 up it feels like a device which is going to set you back several hundred pounds - which can't really be said for its plastic heavy predecessors.

The Note 4 sports a smart, slender aluminium frame which provides a premium look and feel to the handset - a quality sorely lacking from many Samsung devices.

Round the back you still get that familiar, removable plastic rear cover - c'mon, you love it really - providing access to the battery, SIM tray and microSD slot.



It's just 8.5mm thick, meaning you won't have any trouble sliding it into your skinny jeans, but with dimensions of 153.5 x 78.6mm it'll likely poke out the top and really test the fabric's stretchability.

The sheer size of the Galaxy Note 4 also means it's a bit of a beast to manage in the hand, and you'll want to employ both mitts when it comes to tapping out some text.

If style really is important to you then the faux leather backing will probably be a turn off (we don't blame you), and you'll want to sneak a peek at the iPhone 6 Plus or HTC One M8.

S Pen, not Pen S

A Galaxy Note smartphone wouldn't be complete without Samsung's own, more-than-stylus, S-Pen and the Note 4 is no exception.

Samsung has improved its stylus for the Note 4, with improved accuracy and sensitivity translating into a smoother, more natural handwriting and doodling experience on screen.

The handwriting recognition software has also been given a boost, meaning it's better at deciphering your scrawls, although we found that using our thumbs with the on-screen keyboard was a much quicker way of entering text.



You can do more than just draw and write with the S Pen, as it also allows you to cut out sections of screen and save them as images for later. Plus it makes snapping two apps side by side on screen pretty easy. We found it's far more fiddly to manipulate this multi-tasking function with our podgy fingers.

Rarely did we find ourselves reaching for the S Pen though. The majority of tasks on the phone can be done perfectly well - and most of the time more quickly - with your finger, so fumbling for the stylus was more of an inconvenience.

A happy snapper

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has one of the best cameras currently available on a smartphone, with the rear facing 16MP lens capable of some quite stunning shots.

Snaps are kept blur free thanks to OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation) and the dual-LED flash will brighten those dingy nightclub shots - although over exposure may make your intoxicated mates look like a pack of rabid zombies.

There's a small selection of camera modes within the app; rear-cam selfie, selective focus and panorama, but there's also the option to download more - although the selection isn't overly awe-inspiring. Sound & Shot? No thanks, Samsung.



Taking pictures is easy thanks to the expansive QHD display, giving you crystal clear detail of your subjects and the super slick shutter speed means you'll be able to capture the moment before it passes.

OIS also helps out in low-light, and while the Note 4 won't magic extra lighting out of thin air it does do a commendable job of improving these shots.

Power up, and down

Samsung has stuffed the Galaxy Note 4 full of power with a punchy 2.7GHz quad-core processor (a step up from the 2.3GHz offering in the Note 3) and sizeable 3GB of RAM - that's a lot of bang for your buck.

This means the Note 4 glides through pretty much any task you throw at it. Graphically intensive games such as Real Racing 3 run without a hitch and coupled with the vibrant QHD display it makes for a great gaming experience.

Another good example of the Note 4's power is shrinking a full HD movie to a floating window, allowing you to access the rest of the handsets, be it sending a quick text, checking your emails or updating social media. And all without a pause for though from the Note.

The Android interface has been subjected to Samsung's TouchWiz interface, and while it's a more refined offering than on previous Note handsets it can take time to get used to when coming from another Android device.



It is fluid, with smooth navigation and rapid app loading times allowing you to whizz around without any hint of slow down.

All that power and the high resolution display does mean the Galaxy Note 4 consumers a lot of a battery - but luckily Samsung has been able to squeeze a large, 3220mAh power pack inside.

That's only 20mAh bigger than the Note 3 which did make us worry at first, but you can quite comfortably get a whole day of use from the Note 4 on just a single charge.

If you fancy watching a movie you'll lose around 19% of battery over 90 minutes, which isn't too shabby. That's with screen brightness at full, so you could improve on that figuring by dimming the display a bit.

When you are running low, Samsung's fast charge technology will get you back 50% of your battery in just 30 minutes - perfect for a quick charge up before heading out for the night.

Verdict

If you're in the market for a supersized smartphone you're not going to do much better than the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

It's got a better screen, more power and a stronger camera than the iPhone 6 Plus, OnePlus One and Nokia Lumia 1520 making it the standout phablet on the market.

Samsung's design language in both its hardware and software may not be to everyone's taste, but if you can get past this then you'll be laughing.

The screen is fantastic, we can't praise it enough - and your eyes will thank you if you do decide to plump for the Note 4.

We're still not completely convinced that the S Pen is a necessary addition. There will always be a small pocket of users who swear by it, but we expect the vast majority of Note users ignore it for most of its life. Poor S Pen.

Sure it's expensive, but Samsung has packed in a huge amount of features into the Galaxy Note 4 - some more useful than others - to make you feel like you've got a decent amount of bang for you buck.

If you're not quite convinced check out the aforementioned iPhone or the QHD toting pair of the LG G3 and Nexus 6 - but for an all-round powerhouse the Note 4 comes out on top

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 release date: Out now

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 price: £560+